PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The state Department of Social Services on Monday announced mini-grants are available for local groups throughout South Dakota to use for fighting opioid abuse.

The Legislature in 2022 created a special settlement account that the department administers. A state plan was rolled out earlier this year. The final version calls for $350,472 the first year of the community-level program, according to Emily Richardt, the department’s director of communication and administrative services.

According to the department’s website, “Applications received before November 1st will be reviewed for funding beginning December 2023.” Go here for more information about the grant program.

STEPPING DOWN: Chuck Schroyer is retiring from the state Board of Pardons and Paroles. The South Dakota Supreme Court is looking for a successor to nominate to the nine-member board.

Schroyer, a Pierre lawyer since 1970 and a former Hughes County state’s attorney, was appointed to the board in 2016. His retirement takes effect January 15, 2024.

In announcing the vacancy, South Dakota Supreme Court Chief Justice Steven Jensen said any attorney interested in serving should send a letter and resume no later than December 1 to his office at 500 E. Capitol Avenue in Pierre.

The state Senate holds final word on confirming members to the board.

State law gives authority to three state government elected leaders — the governor, the attorney general and the chief justice — to each appoint three members to the board.

The board recommends pardons to the governor, conducts hearings and takes action on inmate petitions for parole. State law says the board operates “under the direction and supervision of the (South Dakota) Department of Corrections but shall retain the quasi-judicial, quasi-legislative, advisory, and other nonadministrative functions otherwise vested in it, and shall exercise those functions independently of the Department of Corrections.”

The chief justice’s letter noted, “The Court takes this opportunity to public express its appreciation to Mr. Charles Schroyer for his dedication and service as a member of the Board of Pardons and Paroles.”

Among his current activities in retirement are service on the South Dakota State Historical Society Foundation’s board of directors and as a director for the Trail of Governors Foundation project in Pierre.

HELP WANTED: The Legislature’s Executive Board seeks a qualifying patient who wants to serve on the state Medical Marijuana Oversight Committee.

A decision on the appointment is set for the board’s November 14 meeting. Applications are due Friday, November 3.

A qualifying patient is someone who has been diagnosed with one of the debilitating medical conditions as defined in the first section of South Dakota’s medical marijuana laws. Those conditions include:

(a)    A chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or its treatment that produces one or more of the following: cachexia or wasting syndrome; severe, debilitating pain; severe nausea, except nausea associated with pregnancy; seizures; or severe and persistent muscle spasms.

(b)    Acquired immune deficiency syndrome or positive status for human immunodeficiency virus.

(c)    Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

(d)    Multiple sclerosis.

(e)    Cancer or its treatment, if associated with severe or chronic pain, nausea or severe vomiting, or cachexia or severe wasting.

(f)    Crohn’s disease.

(g)    Epilepsy and seizures.

(h)    Post-traumatic stress disorder.

According to the state Department of Health, there were 12,325 approved patients and 246 approved practitioners enrolled in South Dakota’s medical cannabis program as of October 23.

South Dakota voters legalized medical marijuana in the November 2020 election, with nearly 70% supporting IM 26.

NOTES TO SELF: The state Division of Behavioral Health launched a media campaign August 10 promoting its “Notes to Self” message that encourages people to reach out for help about their mental health and for others to support them.

Division director Tiffany Wolfgang said Jennifer Humphrey spearheaded the efforts behind the scenes working with marketing agency Lawrence & Schiller. They’re using a variety of delivery media such as billboards, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, print, TV, AM/FM radio as well as Pandora.

Wolfgang recently briefed the state Board of Social Services on the effort. Materials are being distributed in schools, and three of the population groups the campaign is trying to reach are Native Americans, armed-forces veterans and agricultural producers.

Listening sessions have been held in tribal communities, and the division is partnering with the state Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources and county Extension offices, and the state Department of Veterans Affairs, according to Wolfgang.

“It’s hard to get to everyone,” she said, asking for more ways to spread the message. Board member Elton Blemaster of Pierre offered the South Dakota American Legion headquarters in Watertown and the South Dakota Military Heritage Alliance center in Sioux Falls. “Great suggestions,” Wolfgang said. “We will make that part of our strategy.”

Social Services Secretary Matt Althoff said the agriculture and Native American spots accurately depict South Dakota. Humphrey said the videos can be found by searching for South Dakota Notes To Self on YouTube. “I think they are quite well made,” she said.

Have a news item or story tip about South Dakota state government and politics? You can reach KELOLAND News reporter Bob Mercer in the Pierre bureau at bmercer@keloland.com or by calling 605-280-7580 or through a direct-message on X (formerly Twitter) to @pierremercer.